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K-ON! vol. 3 by kakifly (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

August 16, 2011 by  



k-on-v3

“K-ON!” is a lighthearted, enjoyable manga series about five female students who are members of the music club and their interaction as club members, bandmates but most of all as friends. Recommended!

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Image courtesy of © 2010 Kakifly. All Rights Reserved.

MANGA TITLE: K-ON! vol. 3

STORY AND ART BY: kakifly

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Houbunsha Co., Ltd.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: Yen Press

RATED: Older Teen

Available on August 16, 2011

As the dawn breaks on a new year, Azusa decides it’s time for the girls of the Pop Music Club to tuck away their tea and cakes, pick up their instruments, and bring the rock ‘n’ roll with another performance! But even though Afterschool Tea Time is starting to sound like a real band, Mio’s stage fright is going to make any live show tricky. What better way to cure shyness than with a part-time job… at a maid cafe?!

It’s a start of the final school year for Yui Hirasawa, Mio Akiyama, Ritsu Tainaka and Tsumugi Kotobuki of the high school music club!

As Azusa worries about if new members will join thee light music club, volume 3 of “K-ON!” begins at New Year and focuses on the experiences of the group.  From having Mio work at a maid cafe to work on her shyness, the group bringing in their adviser Sawako Yamanaka’s classic electric guitar to the music store for money, the group enduring a hot summer and wanting an AC for their club room and Mio and Yui leaving their beloved guitar’s back at the club and not bringing it home.  Also, a club trip to a music festival!

All this in “K-ON!” volume 3 by kakifly!

What is “K-ON!” about?

“K-ON!”, it happens to be one of the hottest series in Japan.

The series has been a phenomenon as it has attracted fans all over the world, those who want to cosplay as the characters, those who want to sing like the characters and those who want to play the music of the characters.  Just one look on YouTube and you can see how passionate people are for this series!

“K-ON!” began as a four-panel comic strip written and illustrated by kakifly and the manga would then be serialized in Houbunsha’s seinen manga magazine “Manga Time Kirara” between May 2007-October 2010.  In April 2011, the manga was relaunched on both “Manga Time Kirara” and Houbunsha’s magazine “Manga Time Kirara Carat” with two separate storylines.

The popularity of the manga series led to a 13-episode anime TV series which aired in Japan on April-June 2009, an OVA episode in Jan. 2010 and a 26-episode second season titled “K-ON!!” which aired in Japan from April through Sept. 2010 and a new OVA released in March 2011.

“K-ON!” is a play on the Japanese word “keiongaku” (light music) and the series follows four high school students of Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School who are members of the “keiongaku” club.  The four characters featured thus far in the series are Yui Hirasawa, a naive and clumsy student entering high school who is not entirely sure what she wants to do in terms of extracurricular activities.  While she tries to figure out what she wants to do, two other students, Ritsu Tainaka and Mio Akiyama join the keiongaku club to find out that most of the members have graduated and the only way they can keep the club open is if they have four members.

Because Ritsu plays the drums and Mio plays the bass guitar, they hope they can find other musicians and form a band.

Fortunately, a new member joins the group, Tsumugi Kobobuki, a student from a wealthy family who plays a Korg Triton Extreme 76-key keyboard.  Now all they need is one member.

While Yui is trying to think of activities to do, she sees a flyer for the keiongaku club and in her mind, she remembers light music as something she did when she was young student in elementary school and so she joins.  Meanwhile, the other three members are happy because with a fourth member, the club will stay alive but also the fact that maybe Yui is a guitarist and now, they can start their own band.

But Yui is not a musician and if anything, what she loves about the club is the ability to eat desserts and drink tea with the other members but when the three members perform in front of her, she becomes inspired and wants to be a member of the club and be part of the band.

And the group bringing in a fifth member to their club and band, Azusa.

Azusa is a long-playing guitarist who was inspired to join the club after watching the band perform live but when she joins the club, all she sees is them fooling around, eating desserts and drinking tea.  For Azusa, she wants to be part of a band but with the members of the club having fun instead of practicing, she worries that maybe she made the wrong choice of joining the club.

“K-ON!” features the following characters:

  • Yui Hirasawa– Yui is a naive and clumsy student who likes to sleep, eat and go shopping. But when she joins the Keiongaku club, she becomes the group’s newest member and the band’s guitarist. She tries to learn how to play a Heritage Cherry Sunburst Gibson Les Paul standard electric guitar.
  • Ritsu Tainaka – The most vocal person of the Keiongaku club. She is a drummer that plays a yellow Rick Marotta Signature Yamaha hipgig drum kit and always upbeat, energetic, sarcastic and often always playing jokes on her good friend Mio. Sometimes she can get in the nerves of the other members but she is the most determined in wanting to make sure the club exists and that they form a band.
  • Mio Akiyama – The levelheaded person of the group and the smartest student among the four. She plays a Fender Jazz Bass. She originally was planning to join the literary club but her friend Ritsu tore up her applications and made her join the Keiongaku club. Although a person who knows quite a bit about music, she is also quite shy and is easy to scare. She can’t take anything that deals with anything scary, ghosts, blood, injuries or anything macabre.
  • Tsumugi Kotobuki – The daughter of a very wealthy family. Known as “Mugi”, she plays a Korg Triton Extreme keyboard and is a piano prodigy. She is known for her blonde hair and thick eyebrows. Because her father owns a variety of businesses including a maid cafe, she often brings desserts to the club meetings. She also has an intriguing interest in the club advisor, Sawako Yamanaga.
  • Azusa Nakano – The same class as Yui’s sister Ui, Azusa joins the Keiongaku music club but not sure if she wants to stay because the members do not appear to be taking their band practices that seriously.Ui Hirasawa – Yui’s younger sister who tends to get Yui out of a jam. Unlike Yui, Ui is more responsible and mature and takes care of her older sister.
  • Nodoka Manabe – Yui’s childhood friend and confidant. Smart and intelligent, despite how Yui is at times, Nodoka always supports her. She is also becoming good friends with Mio since they are in the same class.
  • Sawako Yamanaka – A beloved teacher known for her kind heart, she also carries a secret, she is a former member of the Keiongaku music club during her high school years and was a member of a death metal band known as “Death Devil” as the lead guitarist and vocalist. She has tried to hide her past but when the members find a photo and music of her past, as part of a deal for them to keep it a secret, she becomes their advisor. Despite seeming to be responsible, she is quite wild and an airhead like Yui. And also making the members dress up in costumes that she creates.

I love “K-ON!”!

I love the progression of the Hokago Tea Time band and how each of these young ladies grew up together to become a band that can actually perform quite well and start playing their first major gig.

I love the fact that it focuses on normal high school life but also the formation of a band and the dynamics with each of the members as they go through their ups and downs but also the little cute quirks that come with each character.

But overall, these latest episodes in volume three were so hilarious, fun and highly enjoyable. This is one of those light-hearted series that if you want to get away from the serious or dark anime or if you are having a long or tough day, “K-ON!” is the feel-good anime series because it’s all about having fun, enjoying life and doing your best! That’s what I love about this series!

In Japan, you can watch variety TV shows such as “Gakkou e Ikou” (Let’s go to School) or films such as “Linda Linda Linda” and there are many young people who want to play music. And its evident from the various young bands that have come from Japan straight out of high school that have become signed to a major label.

While here in the West, there are shows and events that spotlight this, in Japan, its a bit more magnified because these storylines are brought to television, film and manga. There are constant music auditions throughout Japan featuring many young teenagers who want to make it and these auditions are featured on television. Especially female students who create a rock band.

“K-ON!” captures that essence of those female students wanting to create a rock band and the series gives life to those characters and while keeping the stories fun and light-hearted and the series is so much fun thanks to the characters and just how the group maintains their friendship.

While the anime series is able to capitalize on the group playing live performances and showcase the music, the manga series does manage to focus on the characters and showcase the characters and how they interact much more.   There are also some storylines in this volume that I don’t recall seeing in the anime series.

Character designs by kakifly are well done!  A good focus on character designs and closeups, while some panels will showcase art backgrounds, the designs are cute and fun!

Overall, “K-ON!” is a lighthearted, enjoyable manga series about five female students who are members of the music club and their interaction as club members, bandmates but most of all as friends.

I look forward to vol. 4!

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